Chemical Analysis at Honeywell: from Computation to Presentation
Honeywell Engines, Systems & Services designs, produces and maintains a variety of products for the aerospace industry. These include small gas turbine engines for business, regional, commercial and military aircraft; auxiliary power units for commercial and military aircraft; and environmental control systems (ECS) for aircraft and space. The Research Center supports these efforts especially with respect to catalysis, separations, and thermochemistry. These processes are also applied to support projects within Honeywell Specialty Chemicals.
With such a broad scope of applications, the Research Center needed versatile software that supported improved reliability, accuracy and productivity and would facilitate internal communication between the Center and the engineering sites. For many tasks, Mathcad provides the right computational tool for either the analysis or to supplement analyses done by large special purpose custom Fortran programs and specialized commercial simulation packages.
Working on projects such as aircraft cabin air comfort and quality, and reactors for non-ozone depleting CFC substitutes, Principal Engineer Kevin Barr specifically develops calculations in Mathcad for modeling chemical reactions and physical processes in heat exchanger/reactor-type devices.
Often these analysis procedures need to be transferred to engineers at other locations, such as the Torrance, California, site where the ECS effort is centered. Mathcad provides an ideal way of transferring a computational procedure, along with the relevant documentation, all in one integrated package. Essential to this communication is software compatibility. At Barr's recommendation, numerous engineers at the California site secured individual Mathcad seats and network access to allow the collaborative use of Mathcad between the locations.
“Mathcad is a great tool within Honeywell because it facilitates communication between the hundreds of engineers here," said Barr, a 25-year veteran of AlliedSignal and Honeywell, which became one entity in 1999.
Barr uses Mathcad for many stand-alone calculations — including one-dimensional finite element transient analysis — and as a development tool for sub-calculations that will later be coded in Fortran or C++ as a subroutine for inclusion into a larger system calculation. The Mathcad procedure provides a verification check for the Fortran model.
“The beauty of working in Mathcad is that the units are converted for you and expressions with incompatible units are flagged. The coding is different from Fortran's so you are not likely to make the same mistake in both, so errors are more readily caught. And it is easier to catch and correct logical errors in the Mathcad environment," says Barr.
A former supervisor at the California site, Barr provided rookie engineers with a component problem statement complete with a sample solution in Mathcad, ready to be translated into a Fortran model for a large system.
"This is a great way to communicate with and mentor young engineers who are just getting acquainted with our products and processes," Barr explained. "Once they get the hang of it, the Mathcad documents start coming back at you with even better ideas from our bright, young, recent graduates."
Mathcad as a communication tool for technical information is even more important now that Barr is working with ECS in California but located at the Research Center in Illinois.
Besides the basic use as a computational and collaborative tool, Barr uses the software in other ways. For example, it is used as a post-processor for large Fortran programs, transient reactor simulations. The Fortran-generated data files are imported into Mathcad for final manipulation and plotting. The text capabilities, along with the graphics and easy equation writing when needed allow for ready presentation of results to a wide audience.
“For technical presentations, I don't mess around with office-type software, Mathcad's all I need. If necessary, I can readily export it to Word. In an ideal world, everyone would have access to Mathcad and I wouldn't even have to do that," summarizes Barr.
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